This is one of several paintings In which Thomas Eakins provided an imaginary glimpse of the Philadelphia sculptor William Rush carving The Water Nymph and Bittern, which was installed in PhIladelphia's Centre Square In 1809. Although Eakins's initial motives came from a desire to restore Rush's name to the history of American art, his primary focus on the back of a strongly highlighted nude model also calls into play issues about traditional methods of art instruction. Rush was a founder of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Eakins taught for many years until 1886, when he was dismissed in a controversy about his allowing female students to attend life classes.
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Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916). William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River, 1908. Oil on canvas, 35 15/16 x 47 13/16 in. (91.3 x 121.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 39.461